The most populated nation in the world is also home to the most connected. China’s internet market gained 43M new users last year— equivalent to the entire population of Argentina. Mobile internet usage is also ubiquitous. 95% of internet users there use mobile devices to get online.


With all this growth, China is a mobile marketer’s dream. By 2021, 82% of digital ad spend will be allocated to mobile. However, it’s a very different beast that other high-mobile penetration countries like the U.S. or Canada. If you’re interested in advertising in China, think social. Before you jump in, learn how other brands are getting creative on the country’s largest social media platform, WeChat.

WeChat Logo

Quick facts about China’s mobile economy:


  • The big three: The largest internet companies in China are Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu. In 2016, the big three represented 72.8% of China’s mobile internet ad market.

  • No Google: Google left the country in 2010, opening the market floodgates. This led to...

  • Fragmented app stores: Downloading an app in China isn’t as simple as visiting the Google Play Store. With over 200 third-party app stores, users have many platforms to choose from. The largest players include Baidu App Store, Tencent App Gem, Xiaomi App Store, and Qihoo 360 Mobile Assistant.

  • Messaging apps are platforms: In China, messaging apps are not just for chatting with friends. Most of them, like Tencent’s WeChat, have become portals, which allow users to order a taxi, buy a movie ticket, or access their bank statements in one user interface.

Marketing in China: Using WeChat

Messaging apps do big business in China and Tencent’s WeChat is the most popular. In 2016, it amassed 768M users. For marketers, this audience isn’t just valuable because of its sheer volume, but because they are extremely active. 50% of these 768M users spend 90 minutes in the app per day. However, advertising on WeChat is nothing like advertising on social media giants Facebook or Google in the rest of the world. There are many options beyond WeChat’s traditional banner and Moments advertising. Here are three creative ways that brands are using the platform to market in China.

1. Live-streaming

Forget slick editing and large video production budgets, live-streaming is creating celebrities out of regular people in China. It’s growing so fast that it’s creating its own economy, referred to as the internet celebrity economy. WeChat even built a drone specifically for WeChat live-streaming. Brands can use the live-streaming capabilities on WeChat for many things—from presenting a presentation live, demoing a product, or utilizing influencer campaigns to live-stream a review of a product or app.

2. QR Codes

While scannable QR codes never really caught on in the U.S., they are everywhere in China. If you’re marketing a product, consider using QR codes to engage with your target audience. For example, the Japanese clothing company Uniqlo used QR codes as part of their “Style your Life” campaign, where they asked people to take pictures of the Uniqlo clothing they tried on in the store and post them on WeChat. In the process, these users subscribed to the company’s page on WeChat. As a result, Uniqlo increased their following from 400K to 1M and sales increased by 30%. QR codes can also be used offline to help connect users to a brand’s mini-program within WeChat.

3. Mini programs

Mini programs are cloud-based apps-within-an-app that users engage with inside of WeChat—no large APK download necessary. Many brands are using these mini programs to connect with their consumers in a way that’s engaging and memorable. Burberry recently created a mini game to promote the launch of their DK88 bags. Users shook their devices to ‘paint’ the brightly colored bags. As new bag colors were revealed, the game told the user what their chosen bag color said about their personality—those who chose pink are “passionate,” etc. From there, users could visit the WeChat store to read more details and purchase the bag, as well as share their color choice with their friends. This creative campaign got users engaged beyond a simple banner ad and ultimately drove transactions for Burberry.


Images of Burberry's WeChat Advertisements


With the right creative mix and market knowledge, advertisers can make the most of WeChat to drive interest, engagement, and conversions in China.


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